Country Listing

Pakistan Table of Contents


Cropping Patterns and Production

In the early 1990s, most crops were grown for food (see table 10; table 11, Appendix). Wheat is by far the most important crop in Pakistan and is the staple food for the majority of the population. Wheat is eaten most frequently in unleavened bread called chapati. In FY 1992, wheat was planted on 7.8 million hectares, and production amounted to 14.7 million tons. Output in FY 1993 reached 16.4 million tons. Between FY 1961 and FY 1990, the area under wheat cultivation increased nearly 70 percent, while yields increased 221 percent. Wheat production is vulnerable to extreme weather, especially in nonirrigated areas. In the early and mid-1980s, Pakistan was self-sufficient in wheat, but in the early 1990s more than 2 million tons of wheat were imported annually.

Rice is the other major food grain. In FY 1992, about 2.1 million hectares were planted with rice, and production amounted to 3.2 million tons, with 1 million tons exported. Rice yields also have increased sharply since the 1960s following the introduction of new varieties. Nonetheless, the yield per hectare of around 1.5 tons in FY 1991 was low compared with many other Asian countries. Pakistan has emphasized the production of rice in order to increase exports to the Middle East and therefore concentrates on the high-quality basmati variety, although other grades also are exported. The government increased procurement prices of basmati rice disproportionately to encourage exports and has allowed private traders into the rice export business alongside the public-sector Rice Export Corporation.

Other important food grains are millet, sorghum, corn, and barley. Corn, although a minor crop, gradually increased in area and production after independence, partly at the expense of other minor food grains. Chickpeas, called gram in Pakistan, are the main nongrain food crop in area and production. A number of other foods, including fruits and vegetables, are also grown.

In the early 1990s, cotton was the most important commercial crop. The area planted in cotton increased from 1.1 million hectares in FY 1950 to 2.1 million hectares in FY 1981 and 2.8 million hectares in FY 1993. Yields increased substantially in the 1980s, partly as a result of the use of pesticides and the introduction in 1985 of a new high-yielding variety of seed. During the 1980s, cotton yields moved from well below the world average to above the world average. Production in FY 1992 was 12.8 million bales, up from 4.4 million bales ten years earlier. Output fell sharply, however, to 9.3 million bales in FY 1993 because of the September 1992 floods and insect infestations.

Other cash crops include tobacco, rapeseed, and, most important, sugarcane. In FY 1992 sugarcane was planted on 880,000 hectares, and production was 35.7 million tons. Except for some oil from cottonseeds, the country is dependent on imported vegetable oil. By the 1980s, introduction and experimentation with oilseed cultivation was under way. Soybeans and sunflower seeds appear to be suitable crops given the country's soil and climate, but production was still negligible in the early 1990s.

Data as of April 1994